Dr. Rex Jung only had one introduction to psychology class during his entire undergraduate career at the University of Boulder, CO and admitted, at the time, psychology wasn’t his path. Instead, he graduated with a BS in Finance and was working for several years in the business world before he found his passion. It wasn’t until he started volunteering for the Special Olympics that he became fascinated and interested in how the brain works. Now in his late 20’s, he decided to explore what kind of work was available in that area and psychology, in general, was one of the paths. He states, “I discovered later, neuropsychology was the particular path that would get me to where I wanted to be.”
In this podcast, you will learn more about Dr. Jung’s unconventional career path in psychology. If you want to follow the typical academic path and become a professor in psychology, this episode may not be for you. However, if you are looking for inspiration and advice on how to find your passion and turn that into a career that, as Dr. Jung states, “tickles” your brain and makes your “brain sing,” then this is the Master’s in Psychology Podcast episode you don’t want to miss.
To make the strange transition from finance and business to psychology, Dr. Jung started in the clinical psychology program at Loyola College in Baltimore, MD so “that I at least look plausible” as an applicant when applying to PhD programs. Dr. Jung shares the backstory leading up to starting graduate school at Loyola. He had to move furniture in both Colorado and Baltimore to put himself through school and to provide himself with food and lodging. While he was in Baltimore, Dr. Jung did many things. He worked at the National Institute of Aging in a research laboratory of personality and cognition. He volunteered at Shock Trauma Hospital as a neuropsychology technician doing testing and also volunteered at Johns Hopkins in neurosurgery (and pediatric neurosurgery), so he was able to see the medical training and neuropsychological aspects of the field which helped him decide on a graduate school and realize that “it was the specialization of neuropsychology that was the best fit for me.” His National Institute of Aging job and Shock Trauma job later turned into paid positions so he could eventually stop moving furniture and that is when he had enough money to start graduate school in the master’s program in clinical psychology at Loyola.
Dr. Jung had two main criteria for PhD graduate schools. First, there had to be mountains in or near it. Second, there had to be snow. He missed the western part of the country, so he applied to schools all up and down the Rocky Mountain range. He was a little over a year into his master’s program when he was accepted and started his PhD at the University of New Mexico. He recalls that many of his classes transferred from the master’s program to the PhD program at UNM.
After receiving his doctorate in clinical neuropsychology, Dr. Jung followed the advice of his advisors and found a place outside of New Mexico for his internship. He looked around and found that the best research was being done at Baylor College of Medicine, so he applied there and a number of other places and was accepted at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, TX. While there, he worked side by side with neurologists and neurosurgeons to do awake craniotomies “to test patients while they’re undergoing neurosurgery to determine if you’re cutting part of the brain that is important to ongoing cognitive functions.” He still had family in Albuquerque, so he made fifty round trip flights during that year. He states, “it was an important, hard, expensive year, but I got the experience that I needed.”
Dr. Jung is a licensed psychologist and a practicing clinical neuropsychologist. He is president and owner of a private neuropsychology practice called Brain and Behavioral Associates, PC in Albuquerque, NM which “provides neuropsychological, legal, and independent medical evaluations for your patients or clients, from young adults through seniors.” During our discussion, Dr. Jung shares what a typical day looks like as a clinical neuropsychologist in his practice. For those of you who like the Breaking Bad or Better Call Saul TV series, his practice is located right next to the Dog House Drive In which is a major backdrop in both of these series.
When asked what he loves most about his job, Dr. Jung states “I love working with patients. It is psychology condensed down to its most concentrated elements. Because I have very little time to spend with patients, I really have to concentrate on trying to instill change in them oftentimes in a very short amount of time.” He further states “it’s very distilled psychology but very important work that we do. And I feel fortunate to be able to do this work. It’s very gratifying.”
Dr. Jung loves to travel and has been to Iceland about a half a dozen times. He says that he found Iceland “to be the most profoundly beautiful outdoor scenery I have ever encountered in my life” and he’s planning on going back again in December when Iceland only has light for about 4 hours per day “just to soak up more of its beauty.”
Interests and Specializations
Dr. Rex Jung is primarily interested in relating behavioral measures such as intelligence, creativity, and personality to brain function and structure in healthy, neurological, and psychiatric subjects.
Bachelor of Science (BS), Finance (1986); University of Colorado, Boulder, CO (Cum Laude).
Master of Science (MS), Clinical Neuropsychology (1996); University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM.
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Clinical Neuropsychology (2001); University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM.
Other Sources and Links of Interest
Welcome to the Master’s in Psychology Podcast where psychology students can learn from psychologists, educators, and practitioners to better understand what they do, how they got there, and hear the advice they have for those interested in getting a graduate degree in psychology. I’m your host, Brad Schumacher, and today we welcome Dr. Rex Jung to the show. Dr. Jung is the president and owner of a private neuropsychology practice in Albuquerque, NM called Brain and Behavioral Associates. Although he spent over 14 years in the academic field as an Assistant Research Professor and Assistant Professor at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, his real passion is neuropsychology. Today, we will learn more about his academic and professional journey to show that you don’t have to follow the typical academic path to be successful and enjoy your career. Dr. Jung, welcome to our podcast.
Thank you for having me. I’m glad to be here.
Well, I’m excited to talk a little bit more about your journey. But, first off, what sparked your interest in psychology in the first place?
It’s kind of a long and fraught story. I, I, my undergraduate degrees in finance, so I only had one intro to psych class as an undergraduate, and really, that wasn’t my path. I had graduated with a degree in business, was out in the business world working for several years and started volunteering for Special Olympics and really became fascinated and interested in how the brain works and works less well in all of its manifestations in intellectual disability, Autism, cerebral palsy, seizures, epilepsy, and really made a decision at that time that I wanted to do work in that area. And, uhm, although it was difficult, I was in my late 20s at the time, I wanted to kind of do a redo or reset and pursue work in that area and explore what type of work was available in that area and psychology, in general, was one of the paths and then I, as I discovered later, neuropsychology was the particular path that would get me to where I wanted to be.
And you already mentioned this, you went to the University of Colorado Boulder for a bachelor’s degree, and it was in finance. And so throughout that undergraduate career, it sounds like you were turned on with the, the study of the brain and, and as you mentioned, everything that goes with that, you decided to attend Graduate School at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. Uhm, there are a handful of universities and I’m going to share my screen real quick here just for those who are tuning in and can see the screen. I’ll share my screen and, and here’s your main website and what I wanted to do is move over here and there are, you know, as I mentioned, there are a lot of different master’s and doctoral programs in New Mexico. So, tell us why you decided on the University of New Mexico versus some of these other ones or going outside of New Mexico as well.
Oh my, I was in Baltimore at the time. I, I grew up in Boulder and so Boulder was my hometown. I went to University of Colorado in Boulder’s undergraduate as, as we discussed and I was in Baltimore doing work at that time and my two main criteria for graduate school was there had to be mountains in it, there had to be snow, and so I wanted to get back West. I really missed the western part of the, the country and so I applied all up and down the mountain range, the Rocky Mountain range, from Montana down to New Mexico places in Arizona, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado and, uhm, again, it was pretty naive criteria, but I, I wanted to get back West if I was going to spend, you know, upwards of 7-8-9 years in a place I wanted it to be someplace that I really liked. Someplace that I enjoyed. Someplace that I could have an enjoyable life outside of school where I could hike and, and bike and be outdoors as well.
So why, UNM?
They were the only one that accepted me. So, which is a customary story in this journey is that you go where, where the door opens and you know I applied to, I don’t know, 10 or 12 graduate schools and I was a pretty unconventional student and, and UNM accepted me, so that’s where I went.
Well, there you go. Uhm, I, I do have to kind of ask a follow-up question here. When you were applying to Graduate School, were you applying to both master’s and doctorate programs or only doctorate programs?
Only doctorate programs. I was in a master’s clinical psychology program in Baltimore actually. So, I was coming from a master’s program at Loyola College in Baltimore, MD and I had started there in a clinical psychology program to kind of make that, that strange transition and at least get started on the path so that I at least look plausible as a, as a, as an applicant. And so, I had started in a master’s program and was just applying to PhD programs. At that point, I had not finished my master’s degree but had progressed probably a year, a little over a year in that program, before I then was accepted and started at the PhD level, so I was able to transfer many of those classes from that master’s program to my PhD studies.
OK, and that leads to my next question, ’cause I did see that you received your master’s and your doctorate in clinical psychology with an emphasis, I believe, on clinical neuropsychology. It sounds like, based on your previous description, you kind of knew early on that you were very interested in neuropsychology, and so that was even though you wanted to bike and hike, you still have that in the back of your mind. You wanted to have that there at the graduate program as well.
I did, yeah. I knew and, and all of the programs that I applied to had neuropsychology emphasis. When I was in Baltimore, I did many things. I worked at National Institute of Aging in a research laboratory of personality and cognition. I volunteered at Shock Trauma Hospital who took me on as, as a neuropsychology technician to do testing. I also volunteered at Johns Hopkins, which was there in their neurosurgery, pediatric neurosurgery, so I was really able to see you know medical training, neuropsychological aspects of the field, research aspects of the field and, and get a really good look at what they entailed and what I liked and what I didn’t like about each. So, I was able to make a rational decision when I was applying to Graduate School, that that it wasn’t medical school that I wanted. It wasn’t a clinical psychology per SE, but it was the specialization of neuropsychology that was the best fit for me.
I dug deep and I uncovered a lot of rocks and I found that your advisor, I believe, was Ronald Yeo and your dissertation was “Biochemical Markers of Intelligence and Cognition in Normal Human Brain.” I also noticed that you and your colleagues have a patent, patent number 6708053. I don’t know if you have that memorized, but there it is ‘Biochemical Markers of Brain Function.” Did this patent come from your work that you did on your dissertation?
It did, uhm, it, it, it came we it was back in the, in the dark ages of MRI imaging and we were doing a technique called magnetic resonance spectroscopy which allows us to look at brain biochemistry and so MRI technology, you get static images, uhm, that you know the in the old movies, medical movies and TV shows, you can see them putting up on the white boards and looking at individual images. And that was kind of the state-of-the-art in the early 90’s, but we were able to look at brain biochemistry with same MRI technology and, and use that to map brain function and brain dysfunction. And so, I, we were looking at traumatic brain injury and disease called lupus, multiple sclerosis, different diseases and finding correlate with neuropsychological functioning. And I came up with the harebrained idea why don’t we look at normal brain functioning and see if these capacities of cognitive functioning are correlated with these chemicals that we can measure in, in neurons in the brain. And my advisor let me do that after some haranguing and then it turned out well, published, and then it actually was intriguing that we might be able to, because it was correlated with intelligence that you might be able to measure someone’s intelligence with a simple brain scan instead of an IQ test that you could measure the, the content of their brain and have a objective measure of their intellectual functioning that way. So that’s why we, or my advisor, pushed a patent that because you could easily measure someone’s IQ with a brain scan.
What was the correlation? If you don’t mind me asking how, how strong was that correlation?
It was only .3, which is why we don’t get our IQ measured with brain scans to this day. It’s not a very viable strong correlation, so like with most social sciences correlations you know is only around .3, so it’s not a strong enough correlation to make it particularly viable, others have tried and have patented different MRI techniques to also try to measure intelligence with MRI technology, and I think they’ve gotten as high as .5 perhaps, but need to get much, much higher, uh, correlations in order to be able to make it a viable technique and, and they may get there someday, but it’s certainly not plausible to do that at this point.
With that being said though, I would argue that that’s just another measure that you could incorporate if you wanted to have an all-encompassing view of somebody’s intelligence.
Absolutely, and, and yeah, it’s another measure of brain structure. Perhaps brain function, brain biochemistry that gives you a marker that could be important in terms of cognitive capacity, memory capacity, attention, things of that nature that that could help in. Uhm, understanding someone’s cognitive capacity, which is important to educators, employers. It’s important to neuropsychologists to understand cognitive capacity, cognitive functioning, and disfunctioning and, and certainly that would be a measure that that could be a tool in the toolbox down the road.
Definitely, I would also see that it’s valuable, especially now with the aging population and seeing how their brains change going into their 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s. Alzheimer’s, obviously, I’ve read a lot of your work on brain injury and, and utilizing your skills and diagnoses to help those who are recovering from significant brain injuries as well. Let me go back to your Graduate School and just ask you what were some of the fondest memories that you remember attending Graduate School?
Well, really working in the lab was, was really wonderful. Working with another graduate student fellow of mine, Seth Friedman, who’s another psychologist, ahh, an experimental psychologist, but he and I did studies in traumatic brain injury and, and neuroimaging. And really fond memories of working with, with him and being able to, to run these massive expensive machines and being able to work with really hurt patient populations and treat them with dignity and respect and, and humor and be able to get important data about their recovery over time. It was really incredible that we, you know, were able to do such high-level research in, in Graduate School at the time. It’s kind of astounding when most psychology students, you know, make a survey or an instrument that they run past other college students, undergraduates perhaps, and that’s kind of what most people do in their graduate work is, is kind of survey based, but we were able to, to really do as I look back, uhm, really high-level work that that I didn’t know how spoiled I was at the time, but I was, I was quite in a privileged and spoiled spot at that, at that time, and I thought everyone was able to do that and, and really, it was a pretty rarified point to, to be in that particular time.
It’s always interesting talking to my guests when they recall ’cause all we’re doing is kind of recalling your journey, and they sometimes realize how good they had it and how good life was back then. And, uhm, going along the same lines, a lot of our audience members ask, you know, how did you go about the process of searching for graduate schools and programs? And so, I’ll kind of change that a little bit and say, in hindsight, would you do anything different in terms of the process related to searching for graduate schools and programs? And if so, go ahead and explain.
No, I mean it. It’s kind of a, it’s kind of a crapshoot and you don’t know how things are going to work out and, and things you know worked out great here and I’ve, uh, I was incredibly lucky to fall in with the great advisor, Ron Yeo, who you mentioned, he gave me incredible leeway and freedom and, and wonderful guidance along the way, uhm, to, to explore the world of psychology, intelligence, neuroimaging. And, and then, uh, I came to love New Mexico and, and this place and, and make it my new home for what? 25-6-7 years now? So, I, I really would not change anything because I love this place and ahh the trajectory of my career has been very gratifying. And if I change anything I feel like I’d screw it all up. I feel like it’s just incredibly lucky that I got to do all the things that I got to do. I feel that if I kind of upset the applecart that I would end up in a profoundly different place.
So, what advice would you offer those seeking a graduate degree in psychology?
I, I think you know, pick a place that you, you believe that you will be happy and that you believe provides opportunity that it isn’t all going to be spelled out for you. If, if there are many paths open to you, that’s probably the, the best place for you to go. And if you can find a place that, that provides opportunity for you to be entrepreneurial in your spirit, I think that is probably gives you the best opportunity to succeed. If you go someplace that they have the perfect machine to fit you as a cog into that is, is that can be right for some people, but for smart people who are going into psychology, that’s often the, the wrong, the wrong fit.
And a lot of people when they I’m interested in psychology, they think, and then they don’t know which field or area of psychology and you knew from the sounds of it from the get-go. Neuropsychology is what I wanted. Any advice to those who are still wondering? I know I’m interested in psychology, but I’m not sure what field. How do they get to know that? And any advice on how they could find their field faster?
Well, I didn’t know, uhm, and, and so I showed up at places and, and volunteered my services and said I’d like to, you know, help out and volunteer and, uhm, provide my work and in exchange you can teach me what it is about this work that you do, and it sounds like I am a trust fund baby, but I wasn’t. I moved furniture in both Colorado to put myself through school and in Baltimore to provide myself with food and lodging, but some of these jobs turned into working jobs when they saw that you were useful. I’d started out as a volunteer and be able to move less furniture and do more work. The Shock Trauma job where I was a neuro psych technician, that turned into a paid position. The Johns Hopkins was always a volunteer job in neurosurgery. At, uh, at National Institute of Aging, that turned into a paid position. Eventually, I could stop moving furniture and had enough money to then start graduate school in a master’s program in clinical psychology. But it, it, it took some time to try these things out to show up to do good work, to see what I liked and what I didn’t like, and then to take the next step in a, in a rational way. Because I didn’t want to make the same mistake of going through a whole degree process and, and not being happy with, with what I was doing on the on the other end of it, like I’d done with my undergraduate degree.
You kept very busy because I noticed that you did your internship at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, TX in the neurosurgery department and the Behavioral Medicine department. Tell us a little bit more about that experience and how you found that internship.
Well, my, my advisors all said that I needed to get out of New Mexico to do my internship. That was their advice is go someplace other than here. There’s not enough opportunity to get you know the type of experience that that you need to go to the next level, and so I looked around and, and the best research was being done at Baylor College of Medicine. And so, I, I applied a number of places again. They accepted me there at, at Baylor, and it was a good fit. I really wanted to get into neurosurgical practice. Uhm, and they provided the opportunity to work side by side with neurologists and neurosurgeons and it including in the neurosurgical suite to do what’s called awake craniotomies to test patients while they’re undergoing neurosurgery to determine if you’re cutting a part of the brain that is important to ongoing cognitive functions. So, it really provided a unique experience that I never could have gotten here in New Mexico. It was painful because I had a family here in New Mexico I. Was flying back and forth weekly between Albuquerque and Houston Hobby Airport. I made 50 round trip flights during that, during that year back and forth so I could spend the week in Houston and spend the weekends here in here in Albuquerque. So, it was quite onerous. Thankfully this is before 9-11, so flying was a lot easier back then, but. So, it was, it was an important, hard, expensive year, but I got the experience that I needed. They offered me a post doc but, my God, Houston is so hot and humid. I love the people, but Houston was just unbearable. So, I, I came back to, uh, to Albuquerque to uhm to work after that.
Yeah, and I’ll talk about the post doc in a second, but you mentioned something that I have to follow up on. You said that you were doing awake. What was it called?
Craniotomy and then you mentioned to determine whether or not people were taking out an important part of your brain. Don’t get me wrong, I think all parts of my brain are important.
And you’re right. But, if a tumor is in there, for example, they need to get that out and they need to get it out in such a way that they don’t hurt something that you’re using for speech. For example, if the tumor is near a speech area of your brain or for motor functioning, if it’s near the motor strip, so. If, if, if you’re close to regions that are called eloquent regions of your brain, then they pull neuropsychologists in to, to test you keep you talking and keep you chattering away and doing language testing while the neurosurgeons go right up to the edge of that tumor bed and right up to the edge of the cliff before getting into areas that would cause you, cause you harm for your speech, for example. So, I did a lot of that. Then, because I had that experience at Baylor, I was able to do several years of that here in New Mexico, we brought awake craniotomy program started that here in the neurosurgery department here in Albuquerque and worked with a, a wonderful doctor, Dr. Chohan for many years did over 150 awake craniotomy surgeries here in Albuquerque, so we were able to translate that experience on internship into something that we’re able to grow here in Albuquerque.
I, I have to say this even though it’s getting off topic for a second every time I hear awake craniotomy, I think of Silence of the Lambs…
…and I yeah…
Yeah, don’t think of that.
So, it’s probably different than that, but it is, uh, it is definitely interesting. You mentioned that you came back to the University of New Mexico for your postdoctoral fellowship, and I think that was within the Department of the Psychiatry Research. Is doing the postdoctoral fellowship recommended or expected nowadays? Or tell me how you found this? Back then, maybe, it was icing on the cake, but now I get the sense that it’s almost expected nowadays.
Exactly, that’s, that’s exactly right it, it was, it was kind of like additional training that you could do. It was recommended, but not required. Now it’s almost required to do a postdoctoral fellowship, so I hadn’t had much psychiatry training at that time, so coming back and doing a couple years of psychiatry training with patients with schizophrenia, predominantly bipolar disease, but schizophrenia was the predominant population where I could work very intensively with psychiatrists in that group. So, kind of finishing off my rotations with neurology, neurosurgery, psychiatry, some of the major disciplines that work with patients and neuropsychologists. And I was able to do that for a couple of years before getting my first real job in neurology at the University of New Mexico, but to, to answer your question now, people are becoming board certified. I’m a little too old to get, go through that hassle, I guess, of board certification but to become board certified. I’m eligible to become board certified but to become board certified you have to have an internship, APA internship, and a fellowship and go through all of these phases to become board certified in neuropsychology that has to be done. So, it is more of a have to now than, than a want to or might do.
You then worked as Assistant Research Professor for a couple of years within the Department of Neurology at UNM Health Services Center, then worked as a Research Assistant at the Mental Illness and Neuroscience Discovery, which is the MIND Institute, for a few years before returning to UNM as an Assistant Professor for, I think, 12 more years. A couple of questions for you regarding this. How did you find the opportunity at UNM? Ahh, and did you apply to other universities and why UNM?
I didn’t. I mean, I’m kind of one of those people that, that, that didn’t look very far for opportunities, and again I had a family here. And so, uh, neurology, you know, I’m, I’m. Albuquerque is a small place, and UNM is, is even smaller and the hospital is very small, so running into the doctors and neurology’s interested in hiring a neuropsychologist and, and so I went there for my first job and did that for a couple of years. Had very good experience working with the neurologists. Very intensely got to learn a lot about epilepsy and multiple sclerosis and movement disorders, Parkinson’s disease and other diseases that neurologists work with most intensely. So that was a great experience. And then with the MIND Institute research network had an opportunity to pursue grant funding with them. They were looking for researchers to populate, uh, a center grant young researchers that, that would be funded to do research in psychiatry for that mental illness. Schizophrenia was the disease that we were looking at and it was a center grant for several years, allowing us to do neuroimaging research in schizophrenia funded by the National Institutes of Health. And so, I went over there to, to do that research for several years until I got my own independent funding and was able to, uhm, work there with my independent funding for a few more years and then transitioned back to neurosurgery.
So, I’m going to share my screen again and now you are the President and Owner of a private, as I mentioned earlier, private neuropsychology practice called Brain and Behavioral Associates. Before I go there though, I, I loved your website here just rexyoung.com. Your homepage is fascinating to me because it has some links to your research, some recently published material and then in the note, in the news, video, talk, and book recommended sites. And then if you wanted to learn more about you, you have an about page and a press page and a video page as well. But let’s go to this Brain and Behavioral Associates website. Tell me a little bit more about this practice when it was created, why you created it? How is it different? And that’s kind of the key question. How is it different than other typical practices?
So, I created it, or I started it in 2011 so many years ago now, uhm, I started this practice in because I worked at the hospital and worked with medical doctors, it, it, it became evident that while you can have tenure in medical schools, they can always zero out your contract. It’s not like tenure at in a department of Psychology where you have a, a guaranteed contract for life. They can always zero out your contract and so because I’m a clinician, uhm, you know the patients are kind of my tenure, there will always be patients that, that, that need to be evaluated. So, I always saw that as, as my tenure package, if you will, that I’ll always be able to, to work by seeing patients. So, I started when it became evident to me that that I was not going to pursue a tenure track position. I’d always be an untenured assistant professor in the medical school. Then I started this practice and saw some patients on the side to start with, did some legal work and then it slowly evolved over time. And then when I left the university completely just last year, then I have this private practice completely built up in that interval of time to where now I have some other practitioners that work with me. Psychometricians that work for me. Students that run through I have a fellow that works here so I have it a fully functioning private practice that I can work for as long as I want. My plan is to retire in a few years and sell it to a, uhm, well, my office manager I’ve been working with for some 20 years and then come back as a contractor and, and work for her as, as, as fits my needs and moods, which I can do as a neuropsychologist, I can schedule patients some several months at a time and then take several months off if, if that suits me, ’cause I hope to travel more in the future, so this private practice is probably a lot like most psychology private practices. I own this house that we practice in, it has 3 testing rooms, and we employ six people, and we have 4 neuropsychologists working here part time. I’m full time, we have a full time fellow, so it’s a pretty busy psychology neuropsychology practice in, in Albuquerque it’s one of the larger neuropsychology practices here in Albuquerque now.
And I should emphasize or share the address. 1300 Central Ave SW, Albuquerque, NM 87102. Ah, it has a good website on there. It talks about the providers, the services and then it has a contact page. So, if you’re interested, obviously go to brainandbehavioral.com and then you can find out a little bit more about this practice.
And for those who’ve watched Breaking Bad or Better Call Saul, we’re located right next to the Dog House, which is a very interesting point. Uh, that helps our patients locate us. It’s a, it’s a, it’s a major, uh, scene backdrop in, in those two shows.
And I’m sharing my screen again. I was going to share this, but you brought it up and prompted me to bring it up. So yeah, here’s, here’s your location. And there is the Dog House Drive In right now.
Oh yes, it’s right next door. It really helps people find us, but we’re close to downtown, so it’s, it’s a nice location. It’s nice to be in an old bungalow style house which I love and, uhm, uhm, it’s a nice. It’s a nice location. It’s nice for our patients.
On your about page, you state that you study both brain disease and what the brain does well, a field of research known as positive neuroscience. Tell us a little bit more about positive neuroscience.
Well, the positive part is what the brain does well and most, most neuroscience researchers who get funded by NIH, for example, for studying brain disease, traumatic brain injury, schizophrenia and the like. But I think I’ve kind of fashioned a career I have studied and published on traumatic brain injury, schizophrenia, lupus, things like that, but I fashioned a career on the positive aspects of brain capacity, intelligence, personality, creativity, and I think that positive neuroscience is like positive psychology. Looking at positive psychological attributes unlike, or in contrast to, depression, anxiety, uhm, things like gratitude that are positive attributes are important for us to, to look at as well, so positive neuroscience is, is something that I’ve carved out a career in, and published extensively on, so I feel very fortunate to have had no competition or very little competition to start with in that field, but now it’s, it’s, really grown the studies of intelligence, neuroscience of intelligence and creativity has really grown, and dozens and dozens of research labs are, are looking at these capacities of the brain in earnest. And now I can, uhm, rest easy that some real headway can be gained, uh, in spite of our low expectations when we first started.
Now for those listeners or video audience members who are watching the video. If you are interested more on intelligence research, I want to share my screen again because I noticed that you were past president and current treasurer of the International Society for Intelligence Research. Or I don’t know if. If I’m going to say this right, ISIR.
Just ISIR, yeah.
ISIR. So, tell us a little bit more about this society and, and how you found it.
It’s a small society that started, I think at, at around the turn of the century and it’s, it’s a society devoted to researchers interested in the study of intelligence. So mostly it’s made-up of, uh, experimental psychologists who look at psychometric studies of intelligence. But you have geneticists, you have there’s Rosalind, our current president, who is interested in animal intelligence. You have people like myself who are interested in neuroimaging. Kirsten Hilger is doing fantastic work in network studies of brain imaging and intelligence, so you have a really diverse array of individuals studying intelligence from all different aspects, so it’s a very small society, maybe 100 people come to our meeting, but it’s a very collegial and vibrant group of individuals looking at this important human capacity.
Well, again I wanted to share that because what’s interesting is those who are interested in intelligence research may not know where to go, where to start. What are some support groups that are out there that are sharing that same passion for, for that, so let me stop share here and continue on because what we have next is, uhm, one of the reasons I wanted to have you on our podcast is that you have a pretty unconventional career path. I mean, you have the academic part, but you also stepped away from it for a few years and then went back to it and you trained actually to become a neuropsychologist and academia it sounds like was second to that, but you found good work both in the academic world and neurosurgery, and outside in the private practice. With this said, how has having a clinical degree helped you in your career?
Oh, it’s been invaluable. I think without the clinical career I wouldn’t have had the freedom to move back and forth. My clinical career has allowed me to, to, to move in and out of different realms more easily. In the hospital, they’ll, they’ll see you as valuable because you can, you can see patients. With a clinical psychology degree, you can do counseling. With a neuropsychology specialization, you can do testing, you can start a private practice like I did. You can teach neuropsychological, uhm, methods so it, it really is, uh of significant benefit to have a clinical degree and, and particularly in, in, in the career path I’ve chosen, not on the tenure track it has given me stability that I otherwise in, in my salary and in, in my future prospects that I otherwise would not have had, I would have had to, you know really secured a tenure position and, and very concerned about that above all else, but I’ve never been concerned about securing tenure or pursuing tenure in my career. I’ve always been able to, to find work with, with a clinical degree.
And this next question is kind of directed at those who don’t necessarily want to follow that academic path. So, any other advice that you may have for those who are interested in psychology or any field within the psychological field. Uhm, but they don’t necessarily want to stay in the academic world any, any thoughts on that?
I guess my best advice would be find something that you really like. You have, you, you have to do this work, you know, upwards of 8-10-12 hours a day, and if you don’t like it, it’s, it’s. You’re not going to succeed at it, so if you can really find something you’re passionate about, whether it’s clinical work and seeing patients or teaching statistics and really helping people get over that hurdle. It’s really important to find something that you like, I mean, part of something that I found out about myself was that I really, I mean the finance is part of this, but I really like working with numbers. I really like working with data that’s part of the neuropsychology, that’s part of my research career. I was part of finance I, I, I liked working with data, I like math. And that has kind of that capacity or that talent, I guess in my, in my brain has drew me first to finance, but that wasn’t quite the right fit. It drew me to research. Was a very good fit and I really enjoyed that. It tickled my brain, it made, made my brain sing and, uh, yeah, in neuropsychology the same thing if you can find something that makes your brain sing then it won’t feel as much like work. It’ll feel more like play, and if it feels like play that you get paid for boy, you’re gonna enjoy your career.
Very good advice. I like that, “make your brain sing.” I like that I’ll, I’ll add one other bit of advice. Share my screen again. You have a number of YouTube videos and I saw a few of these and a lot of them are really interesting. I love anything dealing with the brain and I know I’m not allowed alone here, but you had one talk in Albuquerque about 12 years ago talking about creativity in the brain and then you had some others that are only three years ago and, and some others that I think were even more recent than that as well. So, for those of you who are interested in the kind of research that Dr. Jung is doing, go ahead and go to YouTube and just search all as you can see up here, all I did is search for “Rex Jung, PhD” and it pulled up most of your videos. There are some other ones out there as well but tell us what a typical day looks like for you as the president and owner of, of this private practice. Tell us what your typical day looks like.
Well, usually I mean, so I’m not seeing patients every day now, but I’m seeing patients several days a week. I come in interview patients, get them set up for their testing, then they start testing with either a student postdoc fellow. And then I start writing reports of patients I’ve seen previously, have results meetings with patients that I’ve seen previously. I’m working on various papers that are in various stages of being written, edited, revised, accepted, rejected so, uhm, and then there’s a business side to this practice that takes a lot of care and feeding, so at least 1/3 to some days 1/2 of my time is spent in fretting over making sure that I’m going to make payroll. To be able to pay all my employees and, and getting a, an accountant that’s going to be effective come tax season and making sure that all our insurances are paid and, and, and whatnot. I’m also doing a lot of legal work expert work. Psychologists, particularly clinical psychologists, as they become expert in a particular area will be called on by lawyers to give expert testimony and legal cases, and I am doing a fair amount of that. Uhm, I find that enjoyable to, uhm, spar with lawyers and, uh, uhm, give my opinions regarding the presence or absence of brain injury in particular clients that they have so that is a lucrative aspect of work that we do that, that can help me pay, pay the bills. But it’s also interesting aspect. It’s very intellectual. Uh, intellectually demanding side of it, doing a lot of going through records and preparing for depositions and court testimony so, uhm, it’s not typical that I do that on a daily basis, but on a monthly basis I’ll have a deposition or court testimony talking to lawyers on a perhaps weekly basis.
What was your most interesting case that you had to depose or, or be an expert witness on? Put you on the spot here, off the cuff.
I don’t know, well so, I will speak in generalities because I but there was a case where an individual was making an allegation of sexual abuse. And it turns out that this individual had a tumor in their brain growing in their brain, uhm, coincidental to the time where these allegations of sexual abuse emerged, and that the tumor and its location may have had something to do with the remembrance of those allegations of sexual abuse. It was a fascinating case which brought up questions of Freud and false memories and confabulation, and, and it was a, a fascinating case, uhm, from a lot of different perspectives, but it, it, it was a very interesting case.
What do you love most about your job?
I love working with patients. It is psychology condensed down to its most concentrated elements. Because I have very little time to spend with patients, I really have to concentrate on trying to instill change in them oftentimes in a very short amount of time. If, if necessary, I, I only have 1 results meeting and it may be just an hour. And some patients really need to understand that their life might be profoundly changed by the diagnosis they are getting if it’s a dementia diagnosis, for example Alzheimer’s disease, or that they have to do something very different to prevent some bad outcome from happening in the future. Uhm, so I think that is the most rewarding thing is to be able to really, uhm, help patients make rational decisions with the best available data in a compassionate way, uhm, in very little time. It’s very distilled psychology but very important work that we do. And I feel fortunate to be able to do this work. It’s very gratifying.
I’m glad to hear that. At the end of most of our podcast interviews, we usually have a handful of fun questions, so I’m going to ask you a couple of them now, probably three of them.
Tell us something, tell us something unique about yourself.
Oh, unique. Unique, I really like to travel, and you said that. I mean, I really love the outdoors. I’m just not built for it anymore as I get older and hiking and camping, and but I still love the outdoors, you had said when we were chatting earlier that you have Icelandic and German background. And I have been to Iceland, perhaps half a dozen times. I find that to be the most profoundly beautiful outdoor scenery I have ever encountered in my life. We’re going to go again in December when it’s only light 4 hours a day.
Just to just to soak up some more of its beauty. I really love the outdoors. I love experiencing nature and Iceland is prototypically the most profoundly beautiful place on this planet. And that’s something that people don’t know about me, I guess, is that I really, really like that, and that’s why I like, why I like New Mexico. I love New Mexico and why I would probably practice neuropsychology in Iceland if I could, if I could ever, I learned, I learned Icelandic.
I had, I had heard a story that, uh, Iceland and Greenland and the people that found each of those purposely labeled Iceland as Iceland to dissuade people from coming to visit. I’m not sure if that’s true.
Exactly and then Greenland to attract them there.
Right, right and, and Greenland actually has more ice than Iceland has, so that’s what’s interesting. What is your favorite term, principle, or theory and why?
These are tough questions. So, uhm, the Flynn effect is kind of interesting. The, in intelligence, the notion that intelligence there’s been a secular increase in intelligence over at least the last century, and there’s all sorts of theories about why intelligence tests keep to, keep having to be made harder because people appear to be getting smarter. From 1900 to 1950 to 1980 to 2000, they have to keep making intelligence tests harder because people keep getting smarter. That’s the so-called Flynn effect. James Flynn, uh, discovered this originally and described this more most fully in his papers. And why would this be? Why, you know, there’s nutritional reasons that you know perhaps we’re getting better nutrition over this century. There’s environmental reasons that maybe it’s you know schooling and visuospatial. I had a theory that I wanted to publish that it had mostly to do with literacy. That massive increase in literacy across that century, where most people were illiterate at the beginning of the century in 1900, you know, only what 50% of the US could read, and none of the world could, could read. Uh, in uh, in non-western countries at any rate, but that, what that did to the brain to instill this complex visual thing that we do to convert scribbles on the page to words to meaning to stories that you could visualize in your head. Imagine the complexity in your brain that that entails and how that could potentially increase your intelligence. So, I think the Flynn effect is my favorite thing to mull over how intelligence could increase over the last century and, and the environmental implications. It’s not genetic, it’s, it, it almost certainly has to be an environmental influence that, that caused that, that increased that secular increase.
When you brought that up, I thought back when I was going to Graduate School and I remember seeing some data that showed more and more people were going to college first year generation and I’m I haven’t looked at it for years and years, but maybe that is also correlated to what you’re talking about. I remember that only a certain percentage of people actually received their doctorate, and now it’s a larger percentage that are receiving their doctorate as well, so I, I can follow what you’re talking about.
Yeah, and I mean you see other things like when you look at all when you go into old houses and the doors are only 5 feet high. It’s, well, we know people are taller too, so we know there is a nutritional effect.
People are reaching their genetic potential through environmental influence of good, good diet, but it seems like there’s other, other things going on that are, are, are incredibly interesting. We don’t. We don’t really have an answer to it.
Do you have any other advice for those interested in the field of neuropsychology?
Umm, hang out with neuropsychologists, I think that was the best thing that I did was showed up at Shock Trauma, found the neuropsychology department and they were friendly folks. Neuropsychologists generally are, we love free help and volunteer your services. We’ll train you to do the tests and, and really learn the nuts and bolts of what we do and what we don’t do because there’s a lot that we don’t do, that is, is more broadly based in clinical psychology if you’re interested in some of those aspects. Uhm, before you, before you take the leap, but if you do take the leap, you will be enormously gratified and rewarded it, it is a, a very interesting, challenging, and rewarding subfield in clinical psychology and psychology that I would recommend to anyone who’s interested in brains. Anyone who’s interested in in data numbers. Anyone who is interested in humans in all of their functioning and dysfunctioning and flourishing and suffering.
I would also add one other thing, more and more of my guests are emphasizing the need and almost requirement for undergrads and early graduate students to have that research experience and, and being able to volunteer at such programs that you were describing at your location as well. Even though it’s volunteer and volunteer, you know. You are a volunteer there and you’re not getting paid. You can actually ask for more and say, hey, Rex, I’d love to learn more about what happens after I administer these tests. Can I help you do, with the data analysis? Can I help you with interpreting that and, and, and that sort of stuff so I, I would highlight that.
And asking and asking the question, what would I have to do to become a coauthor on the paper that comes out of this?
Very good, yeah.
And to be, I mean, that’s what really leveraged my ability to get into Graduate School and get internship is I had a lot of authored papers and that’s, that was unusual for me at the time and allowed opened some doors for me. But if, if students can get into labs, volunteer, get, get started working with data, but then you know talk to their advisors and say what, what would I need to do to help enough intellectually to become a co-author on this paper and have that discussion because becoming a co-author on the paper will really start to open some doors for, for those looking to get into Graduate School to get into work. That, building that resume, is going to open up doors in business in academia, in, uh, in industry. Wherever you decide to go, demonstrating that you have all those tools necessary to translate things from, from the, from the patient or the subject to the paper is, is profound.
The other thing that I’d last say here is don’t limit yourself to just going through your department or your program to find those fellowships or assistantships. You can go outside of academia and just approach the businesses, the practices and, and ask, hey, are you looking for help? Because a lot of people just think and wait for their advisor to put something on their lap and say hey you could do this, why don’t you proactively find that if you really want to so you could go inside and outside of academic fields so.
Definitely, and even while I was in Graduate School, one of the things, I mean, I wandered over to the imaging center that was not in our department. I went over to the imaging center and volunteered over there and, and, and started working and you know started developing a project with them and that really opened up that door, but that wasn’t part of our graduate program in psychology. We’re gonna create instruments and administer tests to undergraduates, that’s, that was the program at that time. So, look beyond your department.
Yes, definitely. I was going to say Rex, is there anything else that you’d like to bring up or discuss on this podcast?
No, I really appreciate the opportunity to share what passes for wisdom with your audience.
Well, I appreciate it. You, you have a good humor and a good aura about you. I really appreciate you being on the program and, and the show and sharing even though you don’t think it’s much, but our audience does really appreciate hearing everybody’s journey and your journey was slightly different. So again, thank you for sharing your story and advice with us.
Thank you very much, I appreciate it.